Perhaps a better title would be beverage trends from 2018, but the lion’s share of what we have noticed this past year will be in relation to wine. It is tough to work as a professional in any industry and not notice the trends in the industry overall, and also the consumption patterns of our customers. It our job to pay attention to what you are looking for so we can serve you even better in the coming months and years. Here is some of what we have noticed during 2018, combined with anecdotal information we have garnered from fellow wine professionals.
We will leave the mostly philosophical discussion on whether sparkling wine made in the traditional method or in the manner of Prosecco is preferred in “bubbly,” but one thing is clear, consumption is up. Way up! Nationwide data confirms this, but we are seeing in North Idaho and with our customers in Spokane that Champagne and sparkling wine is a rapidly expanding category. The consumption of “bubbly” is no longer limited to the winter holiday season as customers look to its refreshing lightness year-round.
Beer sales are declining, and fast. The trends in beer are negative and have been for sometime now across the nation. North Idaho has lagged a bit behind on this trend but we are starting to see it now. It’s clear there are still plenty of really great craft beer offerings locally and nationwide, and the best still command the attention of craft enthusiasts. This core group of beer consumers will remain stable and excited about the offerings. For a while though, it seemed everyone wanted to try the new hip beers, even traditional wine and spirits consumers, and this is the segment you see returning to their traditionally favored categories, taking a bit of the “froth” out of beer sales.
The blend trend is waning. Finally. Consumers are seeking out true varietal wines, abandoning wines that were blended strictly for blending sake. This may be one of the biggest challenges facing Northwest wineries where nearly every winemaker was offering a series of blends that frankly all tasted the same. Winemakers do and should blend varietals to augment the best qualities of their wines and to mitigate negative characteristics based on what a vintage has to offer. It is important to still let varietal character through. In 2019 we predict that consumers will further embrace true varietal wines and winemakers will be forced to follow.
White wine is important. For several years now, we have seen an increase in the amount of white that we sell. We are frequently asked what our favorite wine or varietal is. That is a tough question for us to answer, but I do know that we could more easily give up red than white. There is so much variety in white, and we start most every evening with a glass of white, that we can’t quite imagine not keeping a good supply around. Customers are telling us the same thing via their purchases.
Wine consumers are willing to pay a bit more. While the price for value equation in wine is as important as ever, we are finding that wine consumers in our area are willing to reach a bit further out on the “economic branch” to get a bottle they will really enjoy for a special occasion or because they simply feel the urge. There are plenty of good, value-priced wines available and consumers buy them regularly, but for the special bottles they are open to higher priced wines, again if they come with perceived value.
Customers are seeking diversity. While all wine consumers have their favorites and are likely to go back to those, they are also looking to try wine from new appellations and new varietals. We think this is a great trend and one we openly embrace and encourage. There are so many great wines out there made from different grapes and from different areas; this is the fun of wine. If there is a varietal or growing region you are interested in, we will work to find it for you. We enjoy the hunt!
In the next couple of weeks we will report on the most popular wines of the last year but in the meantime, come by the shop to try for yourself the most popular wines.
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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.